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Sync: e-bulletin April 2010


Run away to the circus!

I remember in the circus learning that the clown was the prince, the high prince. I always thought that the high prince was the lion or the magician, but the clown is the most important. (Roberto Benigni)

Laura, Liz and Rachel working on their vision posters, Caglar an Theresa are in the background

We held our very first Sync Intensives development day yesterday, in Bristol at the CiroMedia centre. With a circus venue we could do little else than follow a circus theme so spent much of the day looking at sticking our heads in the mouths of lions, when to let go of the trapeze, pondering the skills of the Ringmaster and wondering if everyone around us sees us as the clown!

Circus metaphors abound in leadership theory – from books on lion taming and leadership, to well recognised sayings such as walking on a tightrope, or being fed to the lions. It’s a rich seam for exploration and offered plenty of scope for sharing our diverse experiences.

Check out the website over the next week to find out more – we’ll share some blogs about different people’s perspectives up there as soon as we’ve sorted out the photos.

To go straight to the website...

Rachel Bagshaw

Writing ... for Sync this month has raised lots of questions for me – but also highlighted how entwined being disabled is with who I am and where I’m going. I think I maybe don’t always think that – sometimes I choose to ignore it as well – but it definitely does have an impact. (Rachel Bagshaw)

Rachel at the Dundee Disabled Artists Residency.

Each month for the next 12 months, our case study will focus on one of the members of Sync Intensives – and this month it’s the turn of Rachel Bagshaw. Rachel is currently Training and Learning Projects Manager at Graeae, and her case study is a conversation between herself and Jenny Sealey, the Director of Graeae, talking through life, arts, disability and leadership.

Rachel and Jenny both lead in different ways. In the case study, Rachel talks about her journey to recognise her own leadership potential:

I’m not sure I always see myself as a leader. I think I see how, as a director, I facilitate other people – which I suppose is leadership in a sense – but it’s only really in the last couple of years where I’ve started to see that leadership is not only about people but also about creating pathways.

You can read the whole case study through following the link below.

One way in which Rachel's impairment impacts upon her is pain. In her article, Rachel reflects on how, for her, work has become a form of pain management:

Working, for me, is so much a part of my pain management that sometimes I think I immerse myself in it rather more than I need to. It’s tough because working is so exhausting for me - but then when I’ve tried working part time in some ways I’ve found that even harder.

To go straight to Rachel Bagshaw’s case study…

Leading with All of Me?

It’s the interplay between revealing strengths and showing weaknesses, being an individual but conforming, establishing intimacy but keeping your distance that enables great leaders to find the right style for the right moment. (Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones – Why Should Anyone be Led by You)

a black and white image of a naked person crouched in the corner, head in their hands. Spirals radiate off them illustrating pain.

Each member of Sync Intensives will also get to produce an article for us too – giving us new perspectives and food for thought.

It's her relationship with pain that Rachel has focused on for this month’s article - looking how pain impacts on leadership – in relation to how others see us and how we view ourselves. In the article, Rachel questions our traditional view of models and asks for space to view things more holistically:

Mike Oliver, Professor of Disability Studies, describes how the medical/individual model might also be known as the personal tragedy theory of disability.

Not a version of disabled people we wish to be associated with, we have moved away from this to a model of disclosing only that information which relates to our access.

This doesn’t always give scope to reveal when we are tired, or struggling in some way. We want to seem strong; we don’t want to seem that we are triumphing over adversity and achieving against the odds. Yet often this is true for some of us who manage (pain or) an impairment. We are working despite pain, fatigue, or physical difficulty. We are achieving great things. Do we deny this or hide it in some way for fear of seeming brave?

When we started Sync, we ran a 'basecamp' for a year - a place where people could discuss and debate freely - open with each other but only seen by other members of Sync so with a degree of confidentiality. One of the most provocative debates was around the social model of disability - and whether it provided the only solution.

Rachel's article ends by calling for a more individual model:

I am not my pain, but it does impact on who I am. I feel that having managed these symptoms of my impairment I have become a stronger leader and artist than perhaps I would have without it. I embrace my own individual model; I hope that others may too and that together we can support the view that this does not equal tragedy.

To go straight to Rachel Bagshaw’s article on Leading with all of me.…


Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I'll show you someone who has overcome adversity. (Lou Holtz)

a card saying applause please

Disabled artists and cultural leaders are everywhere at the moment. The last few months have been full of success for many. For example, the Cultural Leadership Programme’s list of the top 50 women to watch includes Ruth Gould, CEO of DADA in the North West, Maria Oshodi, Artistic Director of Extant, Claire Cunningham, currently touring Europe with her double bill of dance and crutches ME (Mobile/Evolution) and Cathy Woolley, Participation Producer at the South Bank Centre.

Also, the first ten Unlimited commissions were announced, and include:

  • CandoCo for work with disabled choreographers Mark Brew and Claire Cunningham (yes, the same one as above!)

  • Graeae for more outdoor work with sway poles

  • Fittings Multimedia Arts for The Ugly Spirit inspired by the fascinating lives of conjoined Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker

  • Jez Colbourne to work with Mind the Gap on a site specific outdoor symphony involving Sirens called Irrisistable and (bringing us right back to the beginning of this ebulletin)

  • Mish Weaver and Stumble Dance Circus to produce a show based on the Bipolar Ringmaster (without a circus).

As the quote above says, achievements don’t come easy, there is an enormous amount of work behind each of the achievements listed here.

Within any small community however, celebrating success has its shadow. For every success, there are those who didn’t make it through and it can be hard for us if we also wanted to be recognised for the ideas and work we've put in.

Dealing with disappointment

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

a green cartoon man with his head in his hands - disappointed

Of course we know that no-one wins all the time (even if it seems like they do from the outside). Everyone has to deal with times when they don’t get what they want. But like a lion tamer, how do you stop yourself being eaten alive by the petulant lions around you. Start with looking at what happens to you and how you react?

  • Do you blame yourself or put yourself down, thinking 
“I didn't do enough" or "I’m not good enough for ….”?
  • Do you blame other people, "It's their fault. They should have..."
  • Do you instantly think it's because you're unlucky or nothing ever works for you or
  • Do you just get very angry?

These are the most common reactions, and all extremely understandable but often these work against you moving forward from disappointment.

Instead of going down one of these routes the next time you are disappointed why not try to take a step back from the first set of feelings and ask yourself, “What do I really want now?” Then you may be able to tame yourself into focusing on finding new solutions to achieve your goal.

There’s lots on the web about dealing with disappointment, including this article...

So what else is happening?

a page of text - the word leadership is in red in the centre, the other words around it are in black and blurry and unreadable.

The Cultural Leadership Programme (CLP), of which we are part, has a number of leadership opportunities being advertised at the moment. Here are just a few, and more can be found at their website – link below:

Leadership Development Days and LDD plus

Following the huge demand for the previous series, further opportunities to take part in these one day workshops are now being offered across the UK, running until March 2011.

Leadership Unleashed

Leadership Unleashed is a four-six day programme for 75 people – from the creative and the commercial sector focusing on four key words for leadership – courage, passion, curiosity and insight. It will be launching a second cohort from September 2010 for which they are taking new applications from April 2010.

Leadership Advance: the 21st Century leadership agenda for a diverse society.

CLP is delighted to be working with Cultural Brokers and Alchemy to deliver Leadership Advance, a bespoke programme of tailored leadership, training & support that addresses the cultural leadership agenda for a diverse society (in its widest sense). The programme opens in May 2010 and will be targeted at a mixed cohort of mid-career and established leaders drawn from across the cultural and creative sectors. Register your interest by emailing

ReFreshers week

In July, CLP, who fund Sync, will be holding a ReFreshers week - designed to bring various programme strands together and refresh learning, contacts and ideas. Details are due to emerge in the next few weeks so keep an eye on the CLP website for breaking news.

And that's your lot for this month,

If you were caught in the travel chaos due to the volcanic ash, we hope you made your way home safely and showed true leadership skill in the way you managed!

Bye for now,

Jo Verrent

Sync Project Manager

To go straight to the Cultural Leadership Programme website…

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